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German Music in History
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German Music in History

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I want to thank Tim Kolody for writing up this post about German Music in History! (It’s always wonderful when someone else takes on a huge task for me…) Tim gives us an overview of German music emphasizing German Classical, Rock, Pop and  M

Berlin Music Week
Berlin Music Week 2010, 06. – 13. September 2010

etal. “Danke schön”!!!

German Music in History

Rock me Amadeus!

Germany is the largest music market in Europe, and third largest in the world! But what about German music in the United States?

Germany is not known all over the world for its music, but if you take a closer look, you will find numerous international hit songs which originate in the country! A few songs even manage to become hits in spite of being song in the German language which must be considered quite an accomplishment…

A large amount of German international success has come in the ‘rock’and ‘electronic’ music genres, but Germany has also managed to produce two winners of the Eurovison Song Contest and several hit songs in others genres.

Do you remember any of these?

99 Luftballons
(Performed by Nena Hagan)(99 red balloons in America)
Rock you like a Hurricane
(Performed by the scorpions)
Guten Tag
(Performed by Wir sind Helden)
Anything (especially DU HAST)
(Performed by Rammstein)
Der Komissar
(Performed by Falco)

Well chances are you do………

German Music in History

But how edified are you really about the history of German music and the current artists that comprise this market?

Lets take a look at some fun facts about Deutschland’s artistic talent through the ages and in this modern age…

German Classical Music Composers

Bach Window
Bach church window in St. Thomas Church, Leipzig.
Used with permission from Morn the Gorn

Johann Sebastian Bach,Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert,Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner.Wolfgang Amadeus……. Mozart. Need I mentioned that German classical is one of the most performed in the world? At the beginning of the 15th century, German classical music was revolutionized by Oswald von Wolkenstein, who traveled across Europe learning about classical traditions, spending time in countries like France and Italy. He brought back some techniques and styles to his homeland, and within a hundred years, Germany had begun producing composers renowned across the continent.

The Chorale, opera, Baroque period and the Romantic era all saw technological improvements to German music with notable artists like Dieterich Buxtehude, Heinrich Schütz, Heinrich Schütz, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss, Engelbert Humperdinck, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert.

The later 19th century saw Vienna continue its elevated position in European classical music, as well as a burst of popularity with Viennesewaltzes. These were composed by people like Johann Strauss the Younger. Richard Strauss was a leading composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for hisoperas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems. Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

German Music 20th Century

The first half of 20th century saw a split between German and Austrian music.

Arnold Schoenberg, from Vienna was the Pioneer of atonal music. ( Atonal music is a generalizing term used to define music that seems to lack a clear tonal center. Nearly all music in the western classical tradition is considered ‘tonal’: that is, its harmonic structure is primarily triadic and hierarchically organized around a prominent tonal center.) At this same point in time, artists in Berlin took a different route…. a more populist approach centered on the common people of the nation. Paul Hindemith and Carl Orff began to use unorthodox combinations

"Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F004566-0002, Darmstadt, Internationaler Kurs für neue Musik" by Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F004566-0002 / Unterberg, Rolf / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F004566-0002,_Darmstadt,_Internationaler_Kurs_f%C3%BCr_neue_Musik.jpg#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F004566-0002,_Darmstadt,_Internationaler_Kurs_f%C3%BCr_neue_Musik.jpg
Juli 1957
12. Internationale Ferienkurse für neue Musik, Darmstadt
Seminar: Karl Heinz Stockhausen

of instruments in their orchestrations.

During the period of Nazism, many composers decided to relocate to the United States, largely due to the campaign to rid Deutschland of it’s ‘degenerate art’. (Music linking to Jews, communists and other ideologies or styles thought to be dangerous to the people). Erich Korngold, one of such composers to evade this totalitarian regime came to America and produced such songs as ‘die Tote Stadt’, ‘Glück das mir verblieb’ and ‘Mariettas lied’, which are still selling to this very day. After the fall of the Third Reich, de-nazification was implemented in Germany, opening up a huge door for freedom of expression and creativity.

The Darmstadt New Music Summer School (Initiated in 1946 by Wolfgang Steinecke) was held annually until 1970 and subsequently every two years, encompassing both the teaching of composition and interpretation. It included premières of new works and seemed to be the benchmark of modern European artistry in the 60’s and 70’s.

After time, of course, came the reunification of Germany, and another shift in music.

Scorpions
The Scorpions- photo courtesy of Wikipedia commons

The 1990’s saw German language music groups only having limited popularity as the pop wave of the 80’s produced many German bands that utilized English-language lyrics, instead of their own native tongue. Amungst many in the aforementioned groups were Nena Hagen, The Scorpions, Falco and Peter Schilling  whose stratospheric Bowie update “Major Tom (Coming Home)” stormed the charts in 1983: Astronaut loses contact with earth base, but finds his home in space.

But alas, for the German language bands, despite popular acts like Rammstein (considered to be one of the largest and most successful German rock/metal bands of all time) and Die Prinzen, radio airtime was very limited. Songs like Rammstein’s ‘Du Hast’ were given radio play, but it wasn’t until the success of the band ‘Wir sind Helden’ with their flash and confidence, that native language bands attained a broad success.

The late 80’s and the 90’s in America created styles like Synthesizer Pop and Euro Dance, all of which became popular in Germany. Artists like Sinead O’Connor and Haddoway (What is Love) were very influential and produced a number of German synth-pop bands. Also, from the United States, hip hop emerged and to this day Germany has the most sales of hip hop music aside from the U.S.

Heavy Metal German Bands

Rammstein
Rammstein photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Still, in the 80’s, Germany has a long and strong history with heavy metal. The European style of metal was born in Germany (arguably born in England and called the mwobhm (the New Wave of British Heavy Metal)) It is thought by many to be one of Europe’s most significant contributors to the scene. This genre is very popular within the country and has a very large market. Early hard rock/heavy metal was brought to German soil with the success of The Scorpions. Germany is today known for its large metal festivals including ‘Wacken Open Air‘ and ‘Summer Breeze Open Air’.

Some notable metal artists that come from Germany are Warlock (features Doro Pesch whom was a contemporary of Lita Ford), Helloween (not Halloween), Kreator, Tankard, Morgoth and Gamma Ray. This was such a popular style that there are far too many artists to name. Lafee, a young German singer by the name of Christina Klein, took the artistic freedom of combining heavy metal with modern Pop and has also had a huge following and great success.

Perhaps one of the most notable styles of music to evolve in Germany after the 80’s was a style called Neue Deutsche Härte. (new German hard) (a popular form of German industrial type metal). This style gave birth to bands like Rammstein, Eisbrecher, Megahertz, Schlag zurück and is most notable because if the huge mainstream success of Rammstein, who’s band lineup has not changed since 1994-the year of their conception.The majority of their songs are in German, but they have also performed songs entirely or partially in other languages including English,Spanish,French, and Russian.

It is not uncommon in America to see the Rammstein logo on t-shirts and posters everywhere, as they gave a large amount of record sales and popularity there.They have sold over 35 million albums around the world and been credited with bringing an interest to different cultures around the world for the taste of the German language!

Tim KolodyA Final Word From Tim…

“This is of course only a summarized version of the history of German music and German music in America.
Nonetheless, the next time you hear a non- German speaking American singing Wayne Newton’s ‘Danke schöne’ in the future, feel free to tell them that there’s nobody named ‘Shane’ in the song; that it means thank you very much (literally translated ‘thanks beautifully) and should be pronounced as ‘dankuh shern’, as Shane is literally nowhere in the picture.”

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Comment(2)

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